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Short form: I came up with a scorecard for the performance of American armed forces in every major war since the Revolution, to identify what strengths and weaknesses carried the day in most conflicts, and which ones did not in the few instances of stalemates or losses.

A score of 40 obtains a stalemate in the cases presented here. Below that (Vietnam) is a loss. Above that is a win.

In case you're curious, Iraq started out nicely, then degraded quickly, and that deterioriation is ongoing.

Should anyone be into that sort of thing, I've tacked on some advice on how to mitigate the damage that this war is doing to our military (I think it can be reversed, but only at some exertion, it will take a mininum of three years to do it, and while a complete retreat from Iraq is not requisite, a sea change in approach most certainly is.

The Scorecard

I came up with a scorecard for all the major wars in American History, and rated:

1. Intelligence (Gathering and Analysis) - Getting the data and making sense of it. This is SIGINT, HUMINT, Ops and Analysis all rolled up. If you have a clear picture of the enemy, his wants, his means for obtaining his will, his fears and concerns, you've got a great starting advantage in conflict. In fact, war might not even be necessary, if you play it right.

2. Doctrine, Strategy and Tactics - Devising a battle plan. Make no mistake, this is damn tough business, quite easily the hardest and most essential activity of a fighting force. Technologies change all the time. There is nothing so fleeting as a military secret. But devising, refining and implementing a doctrine, a business plan for war, that is what separates the winners from the losers in almost all contests, save where one side has a thousand year-plus technological advantage over the other. And even then time and lives can be saved by having a good doctrine. And once again, even war might be unnecessary in many instances.

3. Political, Officer Cadre, NCO Leadership - Make judgment calls with it. A war with strong civilian, CO and NCO talent usually gets a "6" rating and no better. "7" scores are only given in cases where there's solid strength in all three PLUS a truly noteworthy genius or two thrown in for good measure. Alas, the presence of such brillance (and arrogance!) can just as easily degrade the leadership quality by generating highly visible dissensions (See: MacArthur). Once more, superior leaderships recognizes options, including those other than fighting on a given day.

4. Loyalty and Esprit de Corps - Trusting your troops to trust and do what you say, to rebuff distractions and criticisms send your way, to defend your honor as their own, as that of the corps. A war can suck and the troops still stand with you...just not for too long. And if the troops trust that you will not send them recklessly into harm's way, they'll love you even more.

5. Supply and Logistics - Giving them the means to do their jobs. But Pizza Hut and Starbucks outlets are nice, too. This rating tends to degrade over the course of long wars, though the contemporary US military has been a model of resupply, to the point of profligacy. As a sad, sordid rule, armies love getting loot. Those that get it from their quartermasters, rather than those whom they are sent to protect or liberate (using modern parlance), tend to win both ways. But it's expensive. Ultimately, a fighting force needs armor more than Arby's roast beef sandwiches. Though I do love them so.

6. Coordination and Communications - Communicating and, where necessary, enforcing your will. Some C3I is essential, good C3I is great. Too much past that is constrictive and wasteful. Blocking Internet access and purging officers who give you professional advice that you do not wish to hear might serve some function. The question is that the best use of that particular unit of resources. As opposed to getting armor to the troops, for example.

7. Morale - The intangible energy, fighting spirit, confidence of the troops. Heavily influenced by strengths/weakness in other areas. a well-rested, well-supplied, well-led army acting on good intel with a solid and flexible battle plan can win almost anything. Armies that dont, don't.

8. Adaptability, Autonomy, Trainability - Rest, volunteer or draftee status, quality of the NCO cadre, whether 'Sarge' is likewise counting tours or years to retirement, education level, support for training factor in. Some armies want supermen. Others want warm bodies.

All these categories were rated on a scale from 1 to 10, except for Morale, which is always 1 + the number of other scores that are “6” (very good) or better. This is also a way to raise the opportunity cost of a fighting force developing super-competency in just one area of the battle planning ‘wheel’. It also provides incentive for planners (in the model, that is) to not exert themselves compensating for glaring weaknesses, and instead boost marginal strengths (4’s and 5’s) to commanding ones (6’s on up).

The Historical Wars, By The Numbers


Category....Rev....W1812....MexWar....CivWar....SpanAm....WW I......WW II..
Intel.......6......6........6.........7.........7.........7.........7......
Doctrine....7......6........7.........6.........6.........6.........6......
Leadership..7......5........5.........7.........6.........6.........7......
Loyalty.....7......7........6.........5.........6.........7.........8......
Supply......3......4........5.........5.........5.........6.........6......
Control.....4......4........5.........5.........5.........6.........7......
Morale......5......4........4.........4.........5.........7.........8......
Training....4......4........5.........4.........5.........5.........6......
Total.......43.....40.......43........43........45........50........55.....
...........................................................................
...........................................................................
Category....Kor....Nam......GulfWar...Iraq03....Iraq04....Iraq05...........
Intel.......6......6........7.........6.........5.........4................
Doctrine....5......5........6.........6.........5.........5................
Leadership..5......5........6.........6.........5.........4................
Loyalty.....5......5........7.........7.........6.........5................
Supply......5......6........7.........6.........5.........4................
Control.....6......5........8.........6.........7.........8................
Morale......3......3........8.........8.........4.........2................
Training....5......3........6.........6.........6.........5................
Total.......40.....38.......55........51........43........37...............

Per this criteria, a score of 40 total will get you a stalemate (War of 1812, Korea, current conflict these past two years). A “50” (WWI, WWII, Gulf War, Iraq in ’03) is pretty much a butt-kicking. Less than a 40 (Vietnam clocks in at 38) gets you one in the “L” column.

There are no absolutes, and flirting with sub-40 for a while is not an automatic loss (one imagines that 1942 was not a pleasant experience for our boys in the Pacific, nor for the Russians.

A sub-35 scoring is theoretical in American history, but I’d rate it a rout in the making. A sub-30 is probably a trigger level for a fighting force turning on its own civilian leadership (again, not a risk for US forces, but this model can be applied to other world powers, as well).

Where We Might Be Headed in Iraq As A Fighting Force

In two of three scenarios? To a very bad place.


Category....Iraq06Great..Iraq06Course..Iraq06Postal........
Intel.......5............4.............4...................
Doctrine....6............5.............5...................
Leadership..5............3.............3...................
Loyalty.....5............4.............4...................
Supply......5............3.............3...................
Control.....9............9.............6...................
Morale......3............2.............2...................
Training....4............4.............4...................
Total.......42...........34............31..................

Staying the Course = Chosin Reservoir-like Wrongness

If inertia decides the next fiscal year of war, the Coalition presence in Iraq will probably fall to pieces probably by Election Day if not sooner. I submit that this is a bad thing for the Bushies and the Republicans...and an even worse thing for America is general. We've not seen an American army or any significant component of it put to rout since the Chinese entered the Korean War in force, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in particular.

The insurgents, the militias, and even the putative Iraqi Security Forces are hardly in the same bandwidth as adversaries as the People's Liberation Army, even that of the 1950s.

But increasingly, the factions in Iraq have relatively (to us) poorly-armed, numerous, enthusiastic friends in Iran who see the continued American presence (never mind recent rhetoric) to be a threat to their existence as a nation.

That's how the Chinese saw things in 1950. And they up and did something about it, rather than wait for the hammer to fall.

Right now, the American armed forces are far too strong to risk such a move. But a degradation of the situation past a certain point might invite, oh, movement of arms en masse to sympathetic factions in Iraq, especially in the south, more clandestine movement of training cadres and irregulars (sic?) to fight alongside the Mehdi Army or its like, and radicalize the situation even further. Perhaps that is happening right now. In fact it is quite likely, seeing as how the dominant Shia factions (despite infighting) are strong advocates of closer ties with the Islamic Republic.

It's what the Chinese did ahead of crossing the Yalu River in force, and it's a very real threat in the here and now.

And if that occurs, suddenly the War in Iraq is not just the War in Iraq.

I submit that staying the course is bad freakin' news for everybody.

But Perhaps The Corner is Nigh

But perhaps a real, bona corner might be turned. The best-case scenario is that intel improves, as new contacts are developed, via Iraqi political parties and factions that are better served by American backing than without it vis a vis their domestic competition. Ironically, that means Sunnis more than Kurds and Shia. All it would take would be some insight, imagination and initiative.

There is a consensus recognition from all corners that existing American combat doctrine isn't quite keeping up with the situation in Iraq. A rollout of a new! improved! doctrine could occur. While a one-year implementation in the midst of a conflict would be astonishing, such feats have occurred before (the decision of the US Navy to beef up its Pacific submarine fleet versus build more carriers, for example, during WW II probably shortened the war by a year or more, due to the effective blockade of the Japanese home islands). Of course, one reason this change was easy to make was the wear and tear on the existing carriers, and the long time required to build replacements....though new carriers were manufactured, as well.

Perhaps there will be a sudden improvement in the quality of leadership. After all there is an election coming up. Independent of that, significant efforts to keep the NCO cadre from collapsing -- "rest" tours homeside, for starters -- and more open and accepting debriefing of the CO experiences in-country -- could do some wonders.

And there would be loyalty benefits from such efforts. Better intel, a battle plan that makes sense, and leadership that shows concern for the troops, not its polls, would be strong signals of positive change.

Less fast food and more body armor, ammunition, replacement vehicles -- the stuff that lives as opposed to comfort depends upon -- would work wonders, as well. It's a rough place, that Iraq. It's hard on equipment, needful things that need to be there when the furball starts. What's that money going toward?

And if these things occur, morale will improve, and instead of looking down the barrel of a meltdown, perhaps an actual corner will be turned, after all. Then you got options.

What this would require, of course, is learning behavior from the top on down of a sort that would be unprecedented in the current-day situation.

It's not impossible, just...well. There is always room to hope, one supposes.

Then again, maybe it really can get far, far worse.

The Nightmare Scenario

About the only thing that is different from the 'Stay the Course' venue is that command and control of the troops breaks down completely. Units are manning their stations, running their patrols, holding down their piece of turf, but they are doing 'whatever it takes' to survive, and that is not always good for the big picture. Discipline decays, unauthorized retribution taken out against local Iraqis, executions of civilians become the rule rather than the exception.

This is the 'Fort Apache' model of liberation: the Iraqis cease to be people that we are helping, become savages that we much subdue or shove aside, to make room for the settlers to come. Only it's worse than that from a military vantage: it's a public relations disaster (never mind that whole war crimes thing) that provokes an intense hatred of all things Coalition, which antes up the tensions on both sides that much further.

At some point beyond this, the troops via their officers start making their strong desire to be relocated, first from nasty corners like Al-Anbar and Sadr City, then from strongholds up to and including the Green Zone itself. Where are the supplies? Where's the relief? A sense of abandonment ensues. Moral, already very low, cannot easily collapse further, but resistance to taking chances, even balking at some orders from command, creeps into the picture.

At which point real risk of mutiny is on the table, and all this within a country that is melting down, with us or without us, and all around us.

Like I said: It. Can. Always. Get. Worse.

Quickly! The Good News! How to Fix The Army and Be Effective In Iraq

For price of intel gathering and control ops, improve doctrine a bit and supply a lot, also rotate, rest and recruit to retain higher-caliber personnel and give them time to become even better. Stop-loss if you must; rotate stateside for tours to make it work.

Next, further improvements on cadre, esprit de corps, with attendant benefits to morale, which acts as a force multiplier here.

Final round of improvements on leadership (refinement of strategic objectives, leverage good political resources), beef up intel assets both ops and analysis, more morale boosting.      

More intel enhancements, now's the time to crank up emphasis on command and control, now that a long-term viable fighting force with experience in the theater and a means of sustaining and building on same is available.                

If further improvements are required, make them by throwing a lot of money and supplies at the problem -- logistics, big battalions winning battles, army fights on its stomach, that sort of thing.                                              

Wrap

I’m quite sure the current dust-up in the sandbox is winnable --- in the sense that American policy interests can be harmonized to local realities, and repair (quite possibly reparations) are made to mend fences with the country that we destroyed in order to save. However, we either implement major changes, right now, and commit to the change for a full three years, and do whatever we have to (including a departure from Iraq, if needs be) to salvage not Iraq, nor some politician's legacy, but to save the United States armed forces from a bona fide meatgrinder that is doing in the service branches.

And if we win in Iraq, too, well, that's gravy. But it's not the most important thing right now.

Hindsight's all nice and all; there are so many, many ways that we might have invaded, if we absolutely had to, regardless of the motive, and had we gone about things smartly and patiently, we'd have long since left Iraq, or remained with the full faith and credit of the Iraqi people behind us.

But that's another universe, and we must live in this one, and make our way forward as best as we can.
 

Originally posted to cskendrick on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 07:20 AM PDT.

Poll

Your take?

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| 9 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Why Post Such A Thing (4+ / 0-)

    Nothing rattles my cage more than a bunch of do-nothing chickenhawks saying that Dems have no ideas on how to fix the "sitch" in Iraq.

    So I figured I'd lay out how I'd fix it. :)

    We're all Helens now. :)

    by cskendrick on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 07:20:25 AM PDT

  •  6 Generals agree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cskendrick, kraant

    Fire Rumsfeld!

    "Why can't you and the idea of separation of powers just hug it out, bitch?" Wonkette

    by Hollywood Liberal on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 07:45:30 AM PDT

    •  What baffles me (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kraant

      Kicking Rumsfeld to the curb would be an unqualified good for the Bush administration.

      I tell you, these guys don't even do selfish well.

      We're all Helens now. :)

      by cskendrick on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 07:48:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not gonna happen (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cskendrick, kraant

        Andrew Sullivan has a depressing analysis of why that won't happen....

        "Bush has delegated virtually all war planning and management of the military to Rumsfeld; his own relationships with uniformed military officers or other Pentagon officials appear to be neither numerous nor deep compared to those of other wartime Presidents... All I'm saying is that what the sudden departure of a man who has served as a kind of Deputy President for over four years would leave is a situation in which many decisions now finally made in Rumsfeld's office could not be made, military leaders that have by and large allowed themselves to be run by Rumsfeld would be left to jockey amongst themselves for position and influence in his absence, and -- from Bush's point of view this factor must loom especially large -- the President's tenuous grasp both on what is happening in Iraq and what is happening in the military would be further exposed."

        This is why Rumsfeld will stay. Bush has few alternatives. He couldn't handle bringing in an outsider like Lieberman, becaue he runs his administration as a cabal of friends and lackeys, and that's the only form of government he knows how to handle.

        "Why can't you and the idea of separation of powers just hug it out, bitch?" Wonkette

        by Hollywood Liberal on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 07:56:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  One contact of mine discussed changing doctrine (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mason6883, kraant

          in the officer corps as being tantamount to changing racism.

          I didn't understand the comment at all, and perhaps I still don't, as that was the extent of the feedback.

          But the way I parsed it out, eventually (right or wrong), was that staff officers' careers, and therefore professional lives, and therefore the value of other people's lives, become one and the same with a given battle plan or weapons system.

          And some careerists do not mind sacrificing little boys and girls, and lots of big boys and girls from their own country, and in very large numbers, to keep their careers going.

          The classic analogy is the neverending feud between air wing, carrier and boat (submarine) admirals in the USN. I suppose similar turf wars exist in the other branches, though the Navy provides a clearer case of how choice of weapons platform creates a constituency.

          Wars provide the most opportunity -- and risk -- to such choices made before the war. The Navy's largely sitting this one out, ditto the Air Force, but the Army's most definitely going through some serious changes.

          Not all those retired generals are out because of second-guessing the Bushies.

          More than a few are out because their darling artillery or armor or helicopter projects just didn't suit the next war, and someone else's did.

          War has more casualties than the kids in the body bags.

          We're all Helens now. :)

          by cskendrick on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 08:03:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Finally (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cskendrick, kraant

    Hindsight's all nice and all; there are so many, many ways that we might have invaded, if we absolutely had to, regardless of the motive, and had we gone about things smartly and patiently, we'd have long since left Iraq, or remained with the full faith and credit of the Iraqi people behind us.

    But that's another universe, and we must live in this one, and make our way forward as best as we can.

    Its about time that someone realized that we are in Iraq, and just talking about all the past mistakes will not help anything!!

    Im so sick of all the Bush lied/NoWMDs/not enough troops/no exit plan talk. We can talk about March 2003, all day, everyday but then we will just be stuck in 2003.

    Its nice to see someone looking to future for a change, who is not talking about yesterday, but talking about what we need to do today, so we can leave Iraq tommorow.

    Evil prevails only when good men do nothing

    by Mason6883 on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 07:45:33 AM PDT

  •  Kind of curois why WWII only gets a 6 for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cskendrick, kraant

    quality of troops, should be a 9 IMHO.

    Evil prevails only when good men do nothing

    by Mason6883 on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 07:48:29 AM PDT

    •  6 is the highest score on the chart. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hollywood Liberal, Mason6883, kraant

      I could scale everything up by three points, but it wouldn't change the comparison at all.

      Besides, I came up with this gizmo yesterday. We're working on making it better, here. :)

      We're all Helens now. :)

      by cskendrick on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 07:51:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nah. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cskendrick

      Not to dis the troops of the era, but they were no more than good.  American participation was marked particularly by a certain doggedness, supply, and so forth.

      I think Rommel's observation on the army he dreamt of are salient.  He was a ruthless realist--you have to be to be a master of deception, because you have to understand what you see and what others see... or will see, and how to manipulate it.

      He longed for American supply.  American logistics.  IF there's one military field in which the US may be the finest military power in history (or may have been... we're doing a crappy job now, having privatized much of it...) it's logistics.

      I can't find it now--I'm clearly not caffinated enough to get Google to find what I want, but I recall Rommel making observations about having an imaginary army with which he could do damned near anything.  The fighting troops weren't American.  It's not that he didn't grant Americans their due, it's that he observed superior quality elsewhere.  But he'd have given his eyeteeth -- at least -- for American logistics.  If he'd had it... well, he'd have probably won in North Africa.  What crippled him repeatedly was a lack of the resources needed at critical moments when he needed just a bit more fuel....

      "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

      by ogre on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 09:23:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey... cskendrick? (0+ / 0-)

        If you can find that quote, or reference, I'd like to know.  I remember it, but damned if I can find it.

        "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

        by ogre on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 12:45:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Quick question on the method there... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cskendrick, kraant

    (only because I'm an asshole grad student taking research methods)

    How do you come up with the ratings themselves, beyond the morale (which you spell out)?  I see where you're coming from, and I agree with you on the results, but I'm just wondering what makes a 4 on something a 4, or what makes it a 7.

    •  Oh, boy. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kraant, jlove1982

      It depends on the category in question.

      Intelligence (Gathering and Analysis) - An "8" would be competency at determining the enemy's strengths and weaknesses with reasonable and timely accuracy in all eight of its own categories. Modifiers would be language, culture, contact barriers, and impermeability of same due to lack of sympathy with locals, or extremes of high/low morale on behalf of one's side or the opposition, availability of surveillance technologies (signals intel, satellites, psy planes, etc.) to augment or compensate for gaps in HUMINT.

      Doctrine, Strategy and Tactics - Similar round-robin for base scoring. An "8" doctrine would be competency in all eight sectors of the battle planning 'wheel', as I like to think of this heuristic. Superlative Intel gets you bonus points, weak Intel gets you penalized. Attachment to obsolete weapons systems, or inappropriate implementation of new ones, could hurt, though as a rule having a material innovation and changes in tactics to maximize value of same is a win-win.

      Political, Officer Cadre, NCO Leadership - The base value is a "3", with one additional point ofr good political, CO and NCO leadership respectively. A "7" would be awarded if one category possessed an exceptional leader (or leaders), 8 or even 9 if all three prevailed without generating dissensions, which historically genius types frequently do. MacArthur in my opinion was hands down the smartest military man in a very big room full of past American military leaders. He was also more than a bit aware of this fact. For a leadership score to drop below "3" would require the virtual elimination of one or more sectors of the triad. In cases  of collapse of civilian leadership, decapitation of the high command, or both is when you see such values. We've been spared that occasion. The Confederacy in its last months was not. Iraq most certainly was not.

      Loyalty and Esprit de Corps - A perfect base score (8) would be an army that trusts that it is getting the straight scoop, that the battle plan is a winner, that the leadership is sound and united, that it is getting the supplies it needs to fight and win (and survive), that orders are clear and clearly transmitted, fitting into the big picture seamlessly, that confidence in the ranks is high and ready for battle, that where any setbacks might occur that the army at large will react swiftly and smartly to same. Oh -- and that the cause is righteous. World War II is the only perfect 8 on the board.

      Supply and Logistics - You're probably starting to see a pattern, here. An 8 would be getting supplies to underwrite all the core tasks of the armed force, including fuel for the delivery trucks. Factors of distance and misalignment of priorities should be incorporated, as well.

      Coordination and Communications - This is largely driven by distance, available transportation, communications and surveillance technologies, and emphasis of doctrine on command and control of the troops. An army that acts as one is a powerful creature, indeed. Complexity enters the equation, too, for an army that can be and see and send messages everywhere has components that can be and see and send messages everywhere, and that last has been a problem for the extant army (see: Abu Ghraib photos), which only fuels a desire for even tighter controls on the troops, to the detriment of training and resupply and focus on the battle plan.

      Morale - Explained elsewhere. 1 + count of superlatives elsewhere.

      Adaptability, Autonomy, Trainability - An army composed of mostly young, poorly-educated volunteers gets a "4". A "5" might be a slightly older, more experienced, more training-conscious army with a system in place to turn kids with guns into soldiers with rifles. A "6" would represent a highly-educated mostly if not all-volunteer fighting
      force bringing a wide range of technical, practical competencies to the table. Having a draft for a relatively short war degrades the score. Having a draft that is in place long enough for the NCO's to be mostly draftees themselves (or stop-lossed into same situation) is a further penalization. Fatigue is a factor all by itself. An unconcern for training would be bad news, too. The opposites -- rest and support for training -- would be boosts.

      I suppose a "7" fighting force would be all the goods, plus everyone's good college degrees in military-practical fields.

      An "8" would be MA's and PhDs, hungry for battle, and ready to kill. Oo-rah. :)

      We're all Helens now. :)

      by cskendrick on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 08:33:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A little critique (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cskendrick, kraant

    One flaw I find in your evaluation system is that its criteria seems to assume the opposition as a static value.

    Force/victory evaluation is best done as a matrix comparing the values on both sides and then totalling the results from there as an expectation of victory, or to show areas that need improvement.

    IMHO

    When I must guard my thoughts, feelings and words, lest I be unpatriotic...then my country is lost

    by crimsonscare on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 08:11:25 AM PDT

    •  Dyad Comparisons Across Time (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      crimsonscare, kraant

      I played around with that approach, with the Continental Army head-to-head versus the British Redcoats.

      And that is indeed a more robust approach.

      However, it takes a lot more time to code, and the endogenous model here produces interesting and substantive results, too.

      We're all Helens now. :)

      by cskendrick on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 08:38:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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